Head of Religious Education

Head of Religious Education

Religious Education at Loreto Normanhurst

My 84 year old father would say to me ‘religious instruction is not like it used to be’ and he’d be right! One of the most important components of Religious Education at Loreto Normanhurst is experiencing learning, rather than just been an observer. The Studies of Religion course in Year 11 and 12 allows students to study all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam where students learn about the beliefs, ethics and ritual practices of these Traditions. However, one can not fully understand another’s faith until they take the time to share some of these faith experiences or some of the rituals. Participating in dialogue and conversation with different faiths also ensures that in a multi-faith and multi-cultural country like Australia we promote understanding, acceptance and peace. As part of our commitment to education we took some Year 11 students on a very special experience to the Jewish home of Rabbi Benji Levi where the experience of Shabbat come alive and we came to experience and understand the real meaning of Shabbat. Madeleine Mullany from Year 11 shares her thoughts from the evening below.

“On Friday the 13th of May, Cara Fagan, Dominica Lindsay, Claire Hassall and I along with Mrs Parker, Mr Madigan, Miss Alcaro and Mr Currao were fortunate to participate in the ritual of a Jewish Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Levy and his family. Rabbi Levy is the Dean of Jewish Life and Learning at Moriah College in Queens Park. Rabi Levy invited us to join in the celebration at his home with his family, friends and other Year 11 students from Moriah College. After studying the topic on Judaism, I thought I had an idea what the evening would be like. It turns out it was nothing what I thought it would be! The Sabbath starts on a Friday at sunset until sunset on Saturday. 

During this time, those who share in the Shabbat take time to be in ‘active rest’ with their family, friends and at the synagogue. Rabbi Levy explained that sometimes we don’t practise active rest and that the Sabbath allows for this to happen in a conscious way. It is very similar to the Christian Sabbath and reminds us all of the need to slow down and be present to one another.

When the Shabbat dinner began, we listened to the prayers being said in Hebrew and watched with a deep sense of curiosity. Rabbi Levy and those that could read and speak Hebrew joined in saying prayers and singing songs. We then drank grape juice and washed our hands, three splashes on each hand. This represented a cleansing and signified that we were ready to share a meal together. The meal started with a chicken soup and a ball of matzos, then moved onto sweet lamb, exquisite potatoes and saffron rice, all perfectly polished off by a apple and raspberry crumble. Throughout the ritual more readings and songs were sung along with a discussion and sharing of our week’s experiences. Rabbi Levy asks us also to reflect on what we were grateful for. I reflected that I was grateful for being given the opportunity to participate in the Shabbat meal. The experience gave me a deeper understanding of the richness of Judaism and allowed me to make links and connections between my formal studies and everyday life.”

We will be providing more of these personal learning experiences for students later in the year when we visit the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque and share a beautiful Turkish meal with the Auburn Muslim community.


Mrs Libby Parker

Head of Religious Education